Rick Barnes on Kansas's experience
One of the calling cards of the Jayhawk program in recent years has been the Kansas staff's ability to stockpile experienced players, especially in comparison to other big-time programs like Kentucky or North Carolina. And this year is no different, with the Jayhawks boasting four senior starters, including three players who are fifth-year seniors.
"I don't know what the players' plans were coming in to Kansas, but the fact is, they stayed there and they have gotten better," Barnes said. "When you have older guys and you can keep a consistency where the older guys set the tone, they show the younger players what it is all about."
You can start to see some of that same emphasis taking place in the Texas program, with the Longhorns seeming to shift their recruiting attention in recent years to more four-year targets to try and beef up the backbone of a program that was constantly bitten by early entries.
Barnes on McClellan
Texas leading scorer Sheldon McClellan played just one minute against Iowa State, with Barnes pulling him early on and keeping him on the bench. So how has McClellan taken that treatment, after he's had a week to sit on last Saturday's benching?
"He is constantly working hard," Barnes said. "I think he understands what we need from him. I have said before, I think the worst thing a coach can do is not be relentless and let players stay where they are. You have to look at a guy and see where he can be, and it is my job as a coach to get him there. He has made a great effort. It is not going to be an overnight thing.
"If they aren't going to do what we ask them to do, we aren't going to win," Barnes said. "We don't have a big margin of error."
That even applies to offense
From an efficiency standpoint, Texas has the No. 13 defense nationally. And the Longhorns are first in three-point percentage defense, third in two-point percentage defense and first in effective field goal percentage defense.
But that doesn't mean that the Longhorns can't get better on that end, according to Barnes.
"If we continue to give up second shots and not do the things that are going to make us more precise on the offense, we aren't going to win," Barnes said. "Our [defensive] numbers are pretty impressive, but when you look at it from a coach's standpoint, we aren't nearly where we should be. It takes all five guys. I would say Sheldon and Javan [Felix] are the two guys that have to take it to a different level defensively as far as getting out of their comfort zone."
Barnes said the primary issue there was effort, though he cited Julien Lewis as a player who gave great effort that was occasionally misdirected. Felix also fingered the Longhorns' offensive rebounding issues, stating that Texas was great at getting a stop, but that it's not a full stop when the other team gets another chance at it.
Withey a force to be reckoned with
Even though super freshman Ben McLemore may be the one getting most of the All-American and NBA Draft mention, Kansas 7-foot center Jeff Withey is the likely front-runner for national defensive player of the year, and might be a bigger concern from a preparation standpoint.
"Not just blocking shots, but by affecting shots, his presence in in the paint definitely makes people change the way they shoot the ball, trying to shoot over him," said Ioannis Papapetrou. "He affects a lot of shots. He affects a lot of plays."
Papapetrou Talks Kansas
Papapetrou found himself with a tough decision about a year ago, choosing between Texas and Kansas. He was offered by, and made visits to, both schools before eventually picking the Longhorns.
Here's what the 6-8 wing had to say about his decision.
"I felt like we had a good group of guys, a good chance to win," Papapetrou said. "Obviously, we are young, but it was a challenge for me to come to a school that hasn't won as much as Kansas did and try to build the tradition here. It was a challenge for me … and that's why I came here."